October 3, 2013

Russian Military: 'Space Troops Not Yet Ready to Fight Aliens’ (Source: Russia Today)
Despite being called Russia’s space troops, they are not ready to deal with invasions by aliens from outer space, according to a statement by a Russian defense official. In a surprising move, an apparently serious journalist raised this question of extraterrestrial security during a media conference at the Titov Main Test and Space Systems Control Center near Moscow, Russia’s main satellite control center.

Titov space center, which is run by Russia’s Aerospace Defense Troops, controls around 80 percent of the country’s satellite fleet, both military and civilian. It is also engaged in launches of spacecraft and strategic ballistic missiles. The facility located about 40km southwest of Moscow is manned by some 1,000 officers and soldiers. (10/3)

Space Florida Financing Fund Supports Growing Space Businesses (Source: Space Florida)  
In FY2013-2014, the State of Florida granted Space Florida a $7 million Financing Fund to support direct equity investments, credit enhancements, and help fund acquisition of strategic infrastructure and equipment. In FY2011-2012, Space Florida received $10 million in similar funding which supported companies like Cella Energy, Lockheed Martin Undersea Systems (Riviera Beach), Embraer Executive Jets and AAR Airlift Group at Melbourne International Airport.

For this year, Space Florida has identified companies statewide that it will target for the latest round of funding – companies that have a solid business case, competitive advantages, addressable market and potential for the best return on investment for the Florida taxpayer. Announcements regarding these companies will be made throughout the year. (10/3)

Space Florida Supports Navy Missile Operations at Spaceport (Source: Space Florida)
In 2012, Governor Rick Scott and Space Florida announced the intent of the Navy Strategic Systems Program at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) to update a 1950s-era submarine missile test complex. The new Strategic Weapons System Ashore (SWS Ashore) facility will provide the U.S. Navy with a single, land-based site for testing submarine missile systems virtually.

Space Florida committed $5 million for capital improvements over three years for the demolition and rebuild of the site. It is estimated that 100 jobs will be created as a result of the project, with average annual salaries of $90,000. As of this month, site demolition is complete and full reconstruction is anticipated by 2015. The Navy considered several locations for the SWS-Ashore facility, but ultimately chose CCAFS because of its unique capabilities and suitability for the proposed facility operations. (10/3)

China's New Rocket Aimed at Operationally Responsive Space Capabilities (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Kuaizhou launch vehicle will be operated by the 2nd Artillery, the branch of the Chinese military that operates China’s land-based missile forces, including its land-based nuclear missiles. The Kuaizhou program calls for pre-positioning launchers and their attached satellites at various locations around the country. Should Chinese satellites used to provide imaging, communication and data relay functions come under attack during a time of war, the 2nd Artillery could launch small replacement satellites into orbit within a few hours. (10/3)

Gulf-States Aerospace Alliance to Meet in Huntsville (Source: Aerospace Alliance)
The Aerospace Alliance was formed in 2009 to promote the existing aerospace, aviation and commercial space advantages Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi. Together they compose the largest aerospace and aviation manufacturing corridor in the world. Space Florida will participate in an Oct. 17-18 Fall Summit of the Alliance in Huntsville. Click here for details. (10/3)

Andrews Space Books a Third Satellite Order (Source: Space News)
Small-satellite manufacturer Andrews Space has sold a third satellite to an unidentified customer in addition to the two-satellite order booked earlier this year and will deliver all three satellites in 2014, Andrews Chief Executive Jason Andrews said. The first could be launched as early as late 2014, Andrews said. Andrews said the company is able to build satellites with electro-optical payloads providing a 1-meter ground sampling distance for less than $5 million per satellite. (10/3)

Mystery of the Martian Methane (Source: Air & Space)
In 2004 three research groups detected methane gas on Mars, both from Earth observations and from the Mars Express orbiter. The scientific community was ecstatic, because on Earth methane is most commonly seen as an end product of metabolism by methanogenic microbes. Further, methane lasts only about 400 years on Mars, due to the strong ultraviolet flux and the oxidative conditions on the surface—which suggests that the detected methane has been released very recently!

Even more stunning, the spectrometer on Mars Express showed the highest concentrations of methane over areas of high astrobiological interest, such as Nili Fossae, Arabia Terra, and Elysium Planitia. Some of these sites are associated with volcanic activity, where hydrothermal water might percolate up to provide suitable conditions for methanogenic bacteria.

It’s also possible that the methane formed more than four billion years ago, during the Noachian time period when the climate on Mars was warmer and wetter. In that scenario, the methane might preferably be released in spring, when some of the frozen ground thaws, allowing the old methane to bubble up.  But the released methane would likely still have originated with early life on Mars. And if life was ever present, it should still be hunkered down on the planet, which is nowadays much colder and dryer. (10/3)

Earthrise Space to Debut Lunar Outreach Rover at Maker Faire (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Earthrise Space Foundation (ESF) is set to debut their Lunar Outreach Rover, “Artemis,” on Oct. 5 at the Mini Maker Faire at the Orlando Science Center. ESF is the host of part of Team Omega Envoy. Earthrise Space Foundation has over 30 students from Universities and High Schools from across Central Florida that participate in building spacecraft. They have an opportunity to bring the knowledge they are gaining in the classroom and applying it to the exciting challenges of the space industry.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to showcase our students’ talents and dedication to the NewSpace Industry at the Mini Maker Faire”, says Marvin Tsoi, COO of the Foundation. “They get a lot of great experience building the hardware that will be on the lunar surface in 2015; what makes us so unique is that the students design, build and manage the entire process of creating the spacecraft.” (10/3)

CSF President to Host 'Ask Me Anything' on Reddit on Oct. 7 (Source: SpaceRef)
On Oct. 7 starting at 2pm ET, in the spirit of World Space Week, CSF President Michael Lopez-Alegria will answer questions in the popular interview series "Ask Me Anything" on Reddit, a site with 50 million visitors a month. AMA subjects have run the gamut from celebrities such as Woody Harrelson and Seth MacFarlane to political leaders such as President Obama.

Community members are encouraged to submit any questions for Michael Lopez-Alegria regarding his career as an astronaut, his extensive time on the International Space Station, and his goals for the future of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. Michael will begin answering questions live at 2pm ET at www.reddit.com/r/iAMA. (10/3)

SES-8 Heads to Florida for Next Falcon 9 v1.1 Launch (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
The Orbital-built SES-8 telecommunications satellite has begun its road journey to Florida ahead of its November 1 (NET) launch atop of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 v1.1 launch vehicle. The satellite is rolling to the Cape Canaveral area on the back of a truck, ahead of processing and integration with the upgraded F9 that is preparing for its debut launch out of Florida.

All of the major launch vehicle components are currently in a processing flow at SpaceX’s Cape facility, following the first stage and second stage testing at the company’s Rocket Development and Test Facility in McGregor, Texas. It is understood that both stages (F9 S1-007 and (F9 S2-007) enjoyed trouble-free test firings. (10/3)

More on Falcon-9 Upper Stage Re-Start Issue (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
“We essentially saw the engine initiate ignition, get up to about 400 psi and then it encountered a condition that it didn’t like," said Elon Musk. "It may have been due to an extended spin start, maybe, but this is speculative. So it initiated an abort of the restart. But we have all of the data."

“So I am confident that we will be able to sort it out and address it before the next flight. It’s nothing fundamental. On the test stand, we have restarted the Merlin 1-D engine in some cases dozen of times. We just have to iron out some slight differences when it operates in vacuum.” As to how much additional work could be involved ahead of the next launch is unknown at this time, as is any potential impact on the November 1 launch date target. The launch was initially planned for October. (10/3)

European Cargo Freighter Lifts ISS Orbit Successfully (Source: Itar-Tass)
The European cargo freighter ATV-4 (Albert Einstein) has lifted the International Space Station (ISS) successfully, creating the working orbit, the Russian space agency Roscosmos said. “The engines of the cargo freighter were activated at 23:22 Moscow time and have been running for 815 seconds,” Roscosmos said. “The altitude of the orbital station increased by about 3,400 kilometers and the average ISS altitude makes 418.2 kilometers now,” Roscosmos noted. (10/3)

The Commercial Space Race Actually Helps NASA (Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Private companies like Orbital Sciences and SpaceX are making trips to the International Space Station look as easy as using Federal Express. Recently, the commercial space rivals jockeyed to be the firm that NASA turns to when it must put satellites and other material into space fast. On Sunday, Orbital's Cygnus spacecraft carrying scientific experiments and supplies successfully docked with the ISS after a software glitch temporarily sidelined it.

Orbital has a $1.9 billion contract with NASA to complete eight cargo missions to the ISS, while SpaceX has a $1.6 billion pact to ferry supplies to the ISS. SpaceX could be flying higher if it wins a three-way race with Sierra Nevada and Boeing to get the contract to carry astronauts to space. Unleashing the commercial potential of space flight may be one of the best things that happened to America's space program.

Editor's Note: Interesting how silent the Congressional naysayers have become on this issue. Several (mostly Republican) members of Congress were quite vocal in their opposition to NASA's plans for fostering the development of commercial capabilities for transportation to/from the International Space Station. (10/3)

Aussie Business Opportunities of the Final Frontier (Source: ABC.au)
What are Australia’s big industries? Mining, agriculture, tourism perhaps? You probably didn’t think of space exploration, or space tourism. But a lot of work being done in the private sector to make those industries a reality for regional Australia.

For instance, if you’d like to channel your inner Felix Baumgartner and jump from the edge of space back to Earth, one day far north Queensland could be the place to do it. Our open spaces, sparse population, yet relative proximity could make it a prime spot for a space tourism venture, according to space entrepreneur Robert Brand.

Mr. Brand is part of the race to land the first private unmanned craft on the moon, and his involvement in the telecommunications side of the space race goes back to Apollo 11. He explained his projects, and the potential for space tourism in the north. Click here. (10/3)

UP Aerospace Launch Scrubbed Due to Gov’t Shutdown (Source: Albuquerque Business First)
Because of the government shutdown, next week’s UP Aerospace launch of five New Mexico payloads from Spaceport America has been scrubbed. The shutdown began Monday at midnight, and it affected the local offices of the FAA and White Sands Missile Range. UP is a private company that launches payloads aboard rockets for private, and government, research.

UP was to submit a restricted air space notice Wednesday, but nobody was around to receive it. The Spaceport is, however, open, a spokesman confirmed. “There was nothing special about the date, but we’re hoping that we can take a new date with two week’s notice,” Larson said. “We’re ready, the federal government isn’t ready.” (10/3)

'Gravity' Makes Space Travel Seem Exciting and Dangerous Again (Source: Las Vegas Weekly)
Hollywood has given us so many futuristic and action-packed space-set movies that it’s easy to forget how dangerous and unforgiving space is for the people who actually travel there. Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity brings that danger home powerfully, with the story of two astronauts (Sandra Bullock, George Clooney) who end up stranded after their space shuttle is damaged by flying debris.

There are no aliens, no gun battles, no explosions (well, a few explosions), just two people trying desperately to survive in impossible conditions. As a story of survival, Gravity is nearly unparalleled. From the moment that Bullock’s Dr. Ryan Stone and Clooney’s Lt. Matt Kowalski receive an urgent message that debris from a destroyed satellite is headed their way at high speed, Cuarón keeps the suspense at a breathless level for nearly the entire running time. (10/3)

Government Shutdown Could Delay NASA's Mars MAVEN Mission to 2017 (Source: CBS News)
When Bruce Jakosky arrived at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center outside of Washington, D.C. on Tuesday morning, the parking lot was full. But no one was there to work. The employees were busy resetting their voicemails and email responses. They needed to let the world know that the government, and therefore NASA, was shut down.

Jakosky, a government contractor who is directing the next Mars exploratory mission, came in to make sure that the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft (MAVEN) was safe in the clean room at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and that all on-board electronics were secured. By the time he walked out of the Goddard Space Flight Center around 1p.m., there were only three cars in the parking lot. The employees had all gone home. The government shutdown was in full effect.

"After a week, I'm really going to start to worry," he said. As a contractor, Jakosky can continue working out of his University of Colorado office. But the team in Florida that is supposed to be readying the spacecraft is on furlough. "I can still work. I'm focused on getting ready for science when we arrive at Mars. But the real work on the spacecraft has stopped. We are just under seven weeks to launch. We have tasks scheduled every day.... Every day we're shutdown does hurt," he said. (10/2)

Scientists Study Light from a Softball-Sized Universe (Source: Christian Science Monitor)
The afterglow from the big bang, the primordial release of energy that gave rise to the universe, has revealed a great deal about the composition of the universe and how it evolved the structure astronomers see today. This afterglow, known as the cosmic microwave background, corresponds to a time when the universe was about 380,000 years old.

Now, astrophysicists have detected a rare phenomenon in this background radiation that they say eventually could open a window on a fleeting period when the universe was only one millionth of a trillion trillionths of a second old. At that time, theorists say, the universe mushroomed at a faster-than-light pace. In the space of a few thousandths of a trillion trillionths of a second, it would have grown from far smaller than the size of a proton to about the size of a softball.

This is known as the inflationary period. But the cosmic microwave background represents a curtain to the observable universe, beyond which direct evidence of earlier processes, such as inflation, are undetectable. That's where the newly spotted phenomenon – a peculiar twist in the polarization pattern in this early light – is expected to help. Click here. (10/2)

Hadfield Does Bowie Again (Source: Maclean's)
After Chris Hadfield’s command of the International Space Station made him a global celebrity, Maclean’s thought it was only appropriate to give the astronaut the rock-star treatment during our recent cover photo shoot. Taking inspiration from Hadfield’s world-uniting rendition of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, photographer Christopher Wahl asked the astronaut to replicate Bowie’s famed image from the cover of his Aladdin Sane album. Click here. (10/2) 

Chris Hadfield: Good Morning, Earth! (SourcE: Maclean's)
Astronaut Chris Hadfield is back on Earth after five months in space. The first Canadian ever to command the International Space Station (ISS), Hadfield has opened a window into life in space as never before, inspiring millions to closely follow his mission. Maclean’s marks his return with a new ebook that gives an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look into Hadfield’s mission. Click here. (10/2)

Furloughed NASA Workforce Faces Uncertainty (Source: WFTV)
Thousands of federal and civilian employees with ties to the Kennedy Space Center are wondering when they'll go back to work in Brevard County. They've been furloughed by the government shutdown. A number of them are on their first full day of leave without pay. With the exception of security, among those considered essential during the furlough, most of NASA's workforce has been told to stay at home. (10/2)

Distrust Vaccines? You're More Likely to Think NASA Faked Moon Landings (Source: Mother Jones)
Do you believe that a covert group called the New World Order is planning to take over the planet and impose a single world government? Do you think the moon landings were staged in a Hollywood studio? What about 9/11—do you suspect the US government deliberately allowed the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks to happen in order to concoct an excuse for war?

If you believe these sorts of things, you're a conspiracy theorist. That much goes without saying. But according to new research, if you believe these sorts of things, you are also more likely to be skeptical of what scientists have to say on three separate issues: vaccinations, genetically modified foods, and climate change. (10/2)

NASA Slammed by Shutdown, But its Fans Fight Back Online (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Few agencies have been socked as badly by the government shutdown as NASA, which has seen 97 percent of its 18,250-member workforce either furloughed or put on call. The lack of personnel has halted nearly every function at the space agency. Processing of a new Mars spacecraft at KSC has stopped. Planned instrument tests for NASA's new James Webb Space Telescope are on uncertain ground. Even the NASA website is down.

But the radio silence hasn't stopped NASA's online friends from voicing their support -- as well as using a dash of humor to poke fun at policymakers in Washington. Though NASA has suspended its official Twitter account for its Mars Curiosity rover, its snarky alter-ego -- the ever-popular "SarcasticRover" -- is still weighing in on the government shutdown and its effects on NASA. (10/2)

Houston, We Have a Market: Privatizing Space Launches Pays Off Big (Source: Forbes)
The media noise surrounding the shutdown overshadowed an important space milestone that occurred on Sunday, the nearly simultaneous liftoff of a Falcon 9 rocket and the docking of a Cygnus capsule with the International Space Station. What was most significant is that NASA wasn’t the designer, builder, or operator of either of these spacecraft.

Both were designed and launched by private firms operating in what is now a competitive space launch market, and we can get all the details at the still functioning websites of SpaceX and Orbital Sciences. To NASA’s credit, both have also been beneficiaries of the agency’s visionary programs. The Commercial Orbital Transport Services program has been the Federal government’s best kept secret.

Starting in 2006 under the flexibility of the Space Act Agreements, our national space agency subsidized the development and testing of commercial replacements for the aging and expensive Space Shuttle by rewarding firms for attaining certain milestones. (10/1)

Space Junk Cleanup Satellite Lauching on Swiss Spaceplane in 2018 (Source: Space.com)
A Switzerland-based spaceflight company is finalizing plans with Canada over a potential launch site for a new private space plane, which is slated to launch a satellite to clean up space junk by 2018. The company, Swiss Space Systems (S3), plans to launch the new Clean Space One satellite using the European Suborbital Reusable Shuttle, a small space plane the firm is developing for low-cost launches off the back of a modified Airbus A300 jumbo jet.

CleanSpace One is a 66-pound (30 kilograms) technology demonstration spacecraft designed to link up with Switzerland's out-of-commission SwissCube nanosatellite — a small cube that measures 3.93 inches (10 centimeters) on each side — and safely de-orbit the target craft. The mission aims to demonstrate orbital identification and rendezvous with an uncooperative target and has an estimated cost of about 15 million Swiss Francs ($16 million). (10/2)

Beer Made with Moon Dust Blends Brewer and Spacesuit Maker Skills (Source: CollectSpace)
A beer brewed with moon dust might sound like a lunatic idea, but it is now a reality thanks to a Delaware brewery and the company behind NASA's Apollo spacesuits. Now on tap at Dogfish Head Brewings and Eats is "Celest-jewel-ale," a traditional German Oktoberfest beer with one not so traditional ingredient: moon dust. What's more, each pint of the Harvest Moon-inspired ale is available in a spacesuit-fabric-wrapped glass.

"Celest-jewel-ale is made with lunar meteorites that have been crushed into dust, then steeped like tea in a rich, malty Oktoberfest," the Rehoboth Beach restaurant wrote on its website. "These certified moon jewels are made up primarily of minerals and salts, helping the yeast-induced fermentation process and lending this traditional German style a subtle but complex earthiness." (10/1)

Shutdown Has Not Stopped Search For Asteroids (Source: CBS)
Reports indicate that the official search for asteroids and other potentially hazardous bodies in space by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has not stopped, despite the government shutdown. The usually bustling District of Columbia has been uniquely affected by the first government shutdown in 17 years, with thousands of federal employees who make up the backbone of the metro area’s workforce ordered not to report to work.

Others around the country have been similarly effected by the shutdown. In regards to NASA, the two federal employees in orbit around the Earth — NASA astronauts Karen Nyberg and Michael Hopkins — carried on as usual aboard the International Space Station, with essential employees at Mission Control in Houston supporting the lab and its six inhabitants.

There were no TV or web updates, however, as most of NASA’s workforce was furloughed. In fact, Almost all of NASA shut down, except for Mission Control in Houston - just 550 of NASA’s 18,000 employees were said to have not been effected by the shutdown. But according to Mother Nature Network, NASA’s asteroid hunting facilities are still open. Click here. (10/2)

Faulty Valve Replacement Delays ULA's Next Delta IV Launch (Source: America Space)
United Launch Alliance (ULA) tweeted yesterday that its next flight has slipped from 17 to 23 October. In response to a request for information on their Twitter page, the company announced that the delay is “to allow technicians time to change out a faulty ground system valve on the liquid oxygen storage tank prior to launch.” The mission will see a Delta IV carry the Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF-5 satellite into a medium orbit, more than 11,000 miles above Earth.

Last October, a Delta IV Medium+ 4,2 experienced a problematic ascent when its RL-10B2 upper stage engine suffered a period of reduced thrust. Fortunately, the Delta’s robust system design, flight software, vehicle margins, and propellant reserves compensated for the shortfall, and the GPS IIF-3 primary payload was inserted safely into orbit. However, the incident led to an investigation into the cause of the glitch. Experts from ULA and the Air Force implemented a number of corrective actions. (10/2)

U.S. Budget Crisis to Hit Intelsat’s Third-quarter Revenue (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Intelsat on Oct. 1 warned investors that the usual end-of-fiscal-year spike in U.S. Defense Department spending on satellite bandwidth will be absent this year with U.S. government budget cuts and the shutdown of government spending. Intelsat Chief Executive David McGlade said the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has not proceeded with its usual end-of-year purchase of satellite capacity because of the budget crisis in Washington. (10/2)

As Next Customer on Falcon 9 Manifest, SES Awaits Details on Sep. 29 Flight (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator SES will await a detailed briefing from SpaceX on why SpaceX’s new-version Falcon 9 failed to perform a planned reignition of its upper stage — crucial for deployment of the SES-8 satellite awaiting a Falcon 9 launch — during its Sep. 29 demonstration flight, SES spokesman Yves Feltes said Oct. 2. SES nonetheless still expects SES-8 to be the payload on the next Falcon 9 launch. The mission, scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, will be the Falcon 9’s first to geostationary transfer orbit, the dropoff point for most telecommunications craft.

Among the new features to be proved during the maiden flight of the Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket was the ability of its upper stage to perform a second ignition. While it was not needed for the Sept. 29 mission, which deployed multiple satellites to low Earth orbit, it is a necessary feature for launches into geostationary transfer orbit. SpaceX officials said after the Sept. 29 launch that the nonignition of the upper stage did not appear to be of a sort to delay the SES flight for very long. Feltes said SES is will hoping for a launch as soon as October, but added that if it slipped to November the company was willing to wait. (10/2)

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Remains Open, For Now (Source: Space News)
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory — which is run by California Insitute of Technology employees, not federal civil servants — has temporarily dodged the government-shutdown bullet, ensuring that several major robotic space missions —  at least for the immediate future — continue regular operations as other NASA centers shut their doors to all but a small number of “essential” personnel.

“Because all of our employees are here and working, all of our day-to-day missions that were planned will continue,” Veronica McGregor, a spokeswoman for JPL, told SpaceNews Oct. 1. “All of NASA’s existing missions are expected to continue space operations.” The reprieve will not continue indefinitely. McGregor said JPL will continue normal operations “for the next week, and then they will be reassess the situation here on a weekly basis to see how long we can continue.” (10/2)

Norway Intent on Self-Sufficiency in Space-Based AIS (Source: Space News)
The Norwegian government is pursuing development of its own operational space-based ship-monitoring system and has scheduled the launch of two more satellites within the next three years to accompany the first spacecraft launched in 2010. Shrugging off overlapping commercial and European programs to provide Automatic Identification System (AIS) service from satellites as either too costly or not directly suited to its needs, Norway expects to satisfy its Arctic ship-identification needs with its own satellite resources. (10/2)

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